PHUKET TOWN: The prosecution called two bank officers to the witness stand yesterday at the Phuket Provincial Courthouse in the ongoing trial of five suspects charged in connection with the murder of businessman Danis Wayne Tong. The officers of the Phuket main branches of Bangkok Bank Limited and Siam Commercial Bank offered testimony on checks presented by Tong and one of the accused, Pratin Prakthong. They also testified about actions taken by suspect Hugo Vandervelde regarding checks drawn on the accounts of Thai Flemish Trading Company prior to the June 24, 1997 slaying. Earlier trial testimony of a police investigator and Jamlong Yamsuwan, Tong’s common law wife, pointed to business loan arrangements between Vandervelde and Tong as a motive for what prosecutors contend was a murder-for-hire scheme. Bangkok Bank Limited Officer Prajak Kaewkew told the court that Vandervelde, in his capacity as Thai Flemish Trading Company Managing Director, was the sole authorized signatory on the company’s current account at the bank’s Phuket Town branch. According to testimony given in September by Pol Maj Preecha Kla-thanong, Chief of the Special Investigations Unit for Phuket Province, Vandervelde, through his Phuket-based meat wholesaling firm, had close business ties with Tong and there were loans and outstanding work-related compensation due the murder victim. Pol Maj Preecha testified that these totalled 800,000 baht. The Bangkok Bank officer testified that a 600,000-baht check, dated April 1, 1997 and drawn on Thai Flemish Trading’s account, was presented for payment on June 23 of last year by Tong at the bank’s Phuket Town branch. The witness said the check was declined by the bank because Vandervelde had issued a stop-payment order on it. On June 24, 1997, the day after the check was declined, Tong was gunned down outside his Rawai residence. In earlier testimony, Jamlong told the court Tong had feared for his life if he cashed a check given to him by Vandervelde. Cross-examined by Vandervelde’s defense attorney, Surasak Pitisuree, the bank officer confirmed that a signature written alongside the date of the 600,000 baht check did not appear to be the same as the one written on the check’s signature line. Prosecutor Chestavit Tantiphanwadee then called to the stand Mongkol Thanapanpanitch, an officer of Siam Commercial Bank (SCB). He testified that three checks were presented on June 20, 1997 for deposit into a Siam Commercial Bank Patong branch savings account maintained by Tong. Among the checks was the same 600,000-baht item presented to Bangkok Bank three days later. It was refused by SCB, as were the two others, each of which had been drawn in the amount of 10,000 baht on SCB. The officer testified that he informed Tong of the bank’s non-acceptance of the three items, advising that stop payment orders had been issued by the authorized signatory. The witness also confirmed for the prosecution that bank records entered into evidence showed a 30,000-baht check deposit into a current account maintained by suspect Pratin Prakthong on May 22, 1997. The check was drawn on Thai Flemish Trading’s Bangkok Bank account. Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume before Phuket Provincial Court Judge Supat Loychusak on February 25, 1999.
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